Friday, May 22, 2009

An Ode to my Father


I know so little about my father even though I lived with both my parents for 25 years and I don't go without seeing my father for more than 2 weeks at a time. He is a mystery to me and I find that I'm constantly trying to understand him. My father was born on January 1st, 1928 in a tiny seaside town in Portgual. He lived in Portugal until 1959 when he was contracted to work on ships transporting petroleum. He was a seafaring man for 3 years, traveling the world and sometimes spending only a few hours at a time on land. In 1962, he moved to Long Island New York and began contract work in the construction business. He moved quickly up the ranks as he has a strong work ethic, is a fast learner and is a natural born leader. He got the traveling bug again in 1967 and roamed around the world for a few more years, picking up odd jobs along the way. During my father's years of wanderlust, he visited a total of 52 countries. He settled down in Massachusetts in the late 1970s. He met my mother through a subscription dating service (the 1970s equivalent of Match.com) and they met in her home country of the Dominican Republic. They married in 1979 and I was born the following year.

My father's story is a lot more complex than what I just presented. If I really knew more of the details of his life, I would probably find a different person from the one I know now. However, my dad keeps many secrets to himself and I often joke that I probably have more half-siblings than I think I do. In his advanced years, my father is becoming more open to revealing details of his life's journey and I take these opportunities to ask him lots of questions although there are ones I know I cannot ask because they would rouse his macho Portuguese ire.

I find that my interest in classic films stems mostly from my constant need to understand my father. The decades from the 1920s to the 1960s intrigue me the most because these are the years my dad lived through but also the decades of his life that I know little about. Watching these films and getting a taste of what those decades were like, I feel like I can better connect with him. Growing up in the 1930s and 1940s in Portugal, my father and his friends would often go to the local cinema and watch American movies. He's told me that he loved watching Humphrey Bogart, Bette Davis, Laurel & Hardy, the Marx Bros., etc on the big screen. I mention a classic film star to him and with a smile that lights up his face, he instantly knows who I'm talking about. If anything, immersing myself in classic films has brung me closer to my dad and for that I'm very appreciative.

The picture you see above is of my father in Milan, Italy circa 1971. I love this photograph of because it shows him as elegant and well-traveled. His look is ultra-confident as though he knows that the camera is getting him at his best angle. He is not even phazed by the pigeons pecking at his hand. I look at this picture and I think to myself "my father is cool".

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Make sure you check out John's "Dad's Photos" series on the blog Robert Frost's Banjo! I was very inspired by his series to do this post.

14 comments:

  1. Raquelle,
    What a nice post! Your father really looks elegant! I think the photo was taken on the big square just outside Duomo in Milan. I think it's called Piazza Del Duomo.
    This gives me inspiration to do a similar post of my dad...

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  2. What a fascinating post. I never knew my own father, but I think that photo of your father describes him very well - mainly, how he must be/have been like. Even in the picture, he has a mysterious quality :).
    I think it's wonderful that you can somehow bond with your father through the classic movies and Stars, even if it's mainly the American ones, because, just through my own humble experience, I find that Portugal made some great classic movies as well and while I’ve only seen a few, it still made me want to see more…

    Have a great weekend!
    best wishes,
    Sebina

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  3. What a great photo! Very nice post, too. It seems that everyone pays attention more to mothers, but I think dads deserve a bit more than they get!

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  4. Terrific photo! Ah, you ask a question most can appreciate. Children rarely understand their parents. I say that because when children have grown and aged enough to ask those questions, the things they want to know about their parents - happened decades before. And since the parents have also aged many of the mysterious things have faded with time.

    A mystery never really solved.

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  5. Very nice! That's an awesome photo of your father. Classic movies bring me and my dad closer, too. Shared interests create a shorthand of understanding.

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  6. Hi Raquelle:

    Beautifully done-- I'm glad you have a chance to find out more about your dad as he grows older; my father was very reticent about many parts of his life--especially his childhood. A great photo, too.

    & of course, thanks for the mention!

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  7. Great post, Raquelle! And very personal, too. I always knew that you bonded with your mother through your shared love of classic movies. It's nice to know that this is true with your dad, too! The picture is great! Your post is a nice early Father's Day present, too. :-)

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  8. What a great post, Raquelle! I love that picture of your dad, it looks its from a movie. You should try to see if your dad would do an interview with you, or something- he must have so many fascinating stories to tell!

    (ps. We have the same "half-siblings" wonder about my great grandfather, too!)

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  9. Jonas - I'm glad that you liked it. You should definitely do a post on your dad!

    Classic Maiden - Thanks! I think Portuguese films would be interesting to watch.

    Sarah - Oh there is a mother one coming up soon. And my mom's name is Sarah!

    Bill - You make a really interesting point! I ask my dad lots of questions but his memory is a bit fuzzy now. But of course I didn't think of these questions back when I was 4!

    John - I guess at a certain age, we'll all be reticent about sharing some details of our past. Thanks for inspiring me to do this.

    Kevin - If only my dad had a computer!

    Kate - I have him dig up old photos and documents everytime I visit. I love finding bits and pieces of his past. My grandfather (maternal) probably has tons of children scattered across the globe. I bet I have tons of half-uncles of aunts I don't know about! He was definitely a womanizer although my dad was more relationship oriented. ;-)

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  10. This is a lovely post! I'd love to see more people blogging autobiographically!

    And the photo is incredible - his pose here has something of Edward G maybe? don't you think?

    Ben.

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  11. That was a very interesting post. And it makes me wonder how many people love classic films because of their parents. In my case, I was born to older parents (they didn't have me until they were 46) who grew up in the Twenties and in the Depression. Quite naturally, then, their tastes tended towards older movies. Oddly enough, I inherited my love of musicals from my father (he convinced me as a child to watch My Fair Lady, even though I was doubtful at the time...).

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  12. That is an excellent photo. It even looks cinematic. Movies are often a window on how we see the world. And anyone who likes Bogie and Bette has character... and may be a character as well. They're two of my favorites as well. Not just pretty faces, they had presence.

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  13. Gosh, this is wonderful, Raquelle!

    Truly heartfelt.

    And your father really does look handsome and eloquent. :)

    ...

    I've missed reading your blog. And I was so glad, as always, to hear from you again. :)

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  14. Your father is very well attired!

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